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Crime The Internet

Researchers Use Computer-Generated 10-Year-Old Girl To Catch Online Predators 545

Posted by Soulskill
from the trawling-the-dark-corners-of-the-internet dept.
mrspoonsi writes "Dutch researchers conducted a 10-week sting, using a life-like, computer-generated 10-year-old Filipino girl named 'Sweetie.' During this time, 20,000 men contacted her. 1,000 of these men offered money to remove clothing (254 were from the U.S., 110 from the U.K. and 103 from India). Charity organization Terre des Hommes launched a global campaign to stop 'webcam sex tourism.' It has 'handed over its findings to police and has said it will provide authorities with the technology it has developed."
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Researchers Use Computer-Generated 10-Year-Old Girl To Catch Online Predators

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  • The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:05PM (#45338803) Homepage Journal

    The numbers there are roughly proportional to the number of internet users from each country(just under 1 per million). So... sick-fuckitude crosses all races and cultures.

    • Re:The numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by znanue (2782675) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:21PM (#45338993)
      Suggests we could do more to manage the problem of child molestation than just crime and punishment. In that vein, maybe we can drop the disgust and stigma long enough to figure out something that works better?
      • Re:The numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

        by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:24PM (#45339021) Homepage Journal

        Well, no. It's okay to be disgusted with crimes that harm others. Wanting an empirical approach to addressing crime doesn't mean the crime itself is intrinsically more OK.

        • Re:The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:34PM (#45339145) Homepage

          What's considered "harm"? To some folks, a 17-year-old hearing the word "penis" is a disgusting crime that should be prosecuted. The way I've seen it most often handled, it's the parents of the child who get to decide whether something's harmful. Usually, the minor has no input on the matter at all.

          Almost all law involving minors is based around the ancient notion that people don't start thinking until someone else tells them to. Until that time, the father/owner/king knows best, right?

          • Re:The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

            by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:38PM (#45339183) Homepage Journal

            Laws about minors revolves around the fact that, by necessity, not all of them are capable of rational consent, and any line used would be arbitrary, so an arbitrary one is used. It's not tyranny to seek limitations on those who would take advantage of naivete.

            I mean, it's almost like your arguing against the existence of childhood.

            • Re:The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

              by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:59PM (#45339497)

              Laws about minors revolves around the fact that, by necessity, not all of them are capable of rational consent

              Not all adults are capable of rational consent. In fact, I'd say that most adults aren't anything resembling "rational."

          • Re:The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

            by qbast (1265706) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:40PM (#45339197)
            Would you agree that parents generally know better what is good for 2 year old than the child? If yes, then it is matter of setting minority age right and/or make acquiring legal rights and responsibilities more gradual. Notion that people don't have full capacity for rational thinking right from birth may be ancient, but it also happens to be right.
        • by ultranova (717540)

          It's okay to be disgusted with crimes that harm others.

          The problem is the disgust with pedophilia tends to reach levels where it actually hinders doing anything effective to stop it, as such action often requires carefully thought-out measures, as well as threatens harm to innocents in the tradition of witch hunts.

          There's another, related effect: outrage is addictive, so it's easy to get stuck on needing targets to hate, in the exact same way a crackhead needs crack but with the caveat that this crack is m

    • Re:The numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @05:05PM (#45339569)

      This shouldn't even be the least bit surprising if you've spent any time at all looking at the current research in the field, suggesting a combination of both environmental and neurological factors. It's like any other 'variation' in human sexuality, statistically you will find it anywhere given a large enough sample. Yet our solutions are entirely reactive rather than preventative. The solutions the experts propose repeatedly are simply never going to happen. This is a field where people assume getting really angry is the only way to fix things, and stopping to understand the problem and break it down into its components is somehow condoning it. Understanding criminal behavior with prevention in mind is 'hugging a thug' instead of getting tough on crime and we must operate under that false dichotomy.

      If we fixed electronics like we treated society's ills, we'd take a sledgehammer to them accompanied by 'die MOFO die!' (a la office space) every time there was a problem. And we'd have a pile of wasted and broken things, and even more problems to deal with as a result... And well, that's what we are seeing, and will continue to see, until we get smart about this problem and start listening to what experts are saying.

      A very small start, just the tip of the iceberg:

      http://www.salon.com/2013/05/15/our_approach_to_pedophilia_isn%C2%B4t_working/ [salon.com]

  • Entrapment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:07PM (#45338827)
    Seems on awful lot like entrapment to me and could also give some people a defence, ie. "I thought she was one of those fake girls, I'd never think of asking a real child to do that!''
    • Re:Entrapment (Score:5, Informative)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:09PM (#45338845) Homepage Journal

      This wasn't the police. How can you have police entrapment with no police involvement?

      I wish people would stop claiming entrapment for stings. They're completely distinct.

      • Yep. Entrapment by police and entrapment by well-intentioned vigilante investigators are completely different things. Though if they have done their research, they'll know the importance of never leading the suspect on or enticing them to any action.

        • Re:Entrapment (Score:5, Informative)

          by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:46PM (#45339271)

          Yep. Entrapment by police and entrapment by well-intentioned vigilante investigators are completely different things. Though if they have done their research, they'll know the importance of never leading the suspect on or enticing them to any action.

          I don't think they are on firm legal ground here. Nobody is going to get charged with a crime and when they start naming names they run the risk of being sued for defamation.

          I don't like child predators and I want them caught and locked up, but this kind of activity doesn't help that much.

        • by fatphil (181876)
          In some ways, the vigilante investigators are on very shaky ground legally, if they do anything to feed the fire. If the researchers/fake-kid did anything apart from the equivalent of just running away from any kind of advances (i.e. completely blunt statements, or just terminating the chat, immediately), I'd say they've poisoned the fruit. Even a "what do you mean" is encouraging them. The various links to various news sites around the world really don't give me enough information to know how much of a mes
    • Re:Entrapment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:16PM (#45338933) Homepage

      These guys probably deserve what's coming to them but to say that a profile is evidence is a bit extreme.

      Except the article points out that they made sure to never actually suggest anything unless it was asked of them (OK, in fairness this one isn't as clear on that point, but I've seen quite a few covering this already).

      It's not entrapment when you initiate contact and are the first one to offer to pay to see an underage girl naked.

      They just had a fictional 10 year old join a chat room. That a bunch of them immediately started making contact with her ... well, that's their actions. It's not like they went in and said "hey, I'm a 10 year old girl willing to get naked for old men".

      And, remembering ICQ ... a/s/l and other immediate responses to the apparent presence of a female, I find this entirely plausible.

    • Seems on awful lot like entrapment to me

      Except it's not since these people would have done this anyway. They were not forced into doing this.

      This web site [tumblr.com] gives a good description of what is and is not entrapment.
  • by chuckugly (2030942) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:14PM (#45338915)
    Asking a 10 year old to get naked isn't a gray area, this isn't a case where a 16 or 17 (or even 15) year old "looked old enough"; this is absolutely a (virtual) child these turkeys are trying to use for their own thrills. More like this and fewer child porno cases against cartoons are what is needed.
    • by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @05:15PM (#45339669)

      Asking a 10 year old to get naked isn't a gray area, this isn't a case where a 16 or 17 (or even 15) year old "looked old enough"; this is absolutely a (virtual) child these turkeys are trying to use for their own thrills. More like this and fewer child porno cases against cartoons are what is needed.

      I see you put the word "virtual" in parenthesis, perhaps hoping we wouldn't notice it, or if we did, think it really isn't relevant. But if you remove the word "virtual" entirely, then you're making a blatantly false statement, if you remove the parentheses, then you're making a true, but ridiculous statement. Very clever of you, but I doubt it will work on most Slashdot readers.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @07:34PM (#45340945) Journal
        To the guys doing it, there was no difference between the virtual and a real girl. Your point is meaningless in the context of the comment you are replying to.
      • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @09:27PM (#45341701)

        I'd say that if we allow for the punishment of people for thought crimes based on their romantic intentions with a virtual girl, wouldn't it also be appropriate to arrest the investigators for pimping a virtual girl?

        I know it's offensive to think about nasty old men taking advantage of little girls -- and I want a world where that doesn't happen. Why not just allow for virtual girls to fill the demand and no real person need be abused?

        I don't want an internet full of "honey pots" where one wrong click leads people to commit a crime -- without real damages to real people. It's damage I'm worried about, not intent nor thoughts.

  • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:16PM (#45338931)
    A possible unintended consequence of this approach could be that future peda-wannabees could claim they believed they were talking to a virtual victim and not a real one, even if the potential victim is real.Basically, a game to see if they could pick out the virtual being. They would, of course, want to verify they are really talking to a virtual victim, thus the reason for a visit. Who could prove it wasn't just a game?
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Nice thought, but many jurisdictions have already outlawed even fictitious depictions of children.

  • by jovius (974690) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:18PM (#45338943)

    So it's an advanced, immaterial sex doll. Probably the adult industry will move on to employ similar creations in live web shows.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:20PM (#45338967) Homepage

    "We believe that criminal investigations using intrusive surveillance measures should be the exclusive responsibility of law enforcement agencies," spokesman Soren Pedersen told the Reuters news agency.

    People in political or law enforcement power are at least as prone to this sort of activity (and often more considering the typical mental/emotional profile of such child predators) as everyone else. So of course they want to control any investigative activity so that they can filter out the protected 'elite' from those caught in the sting.

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:23PM (#45339017)

    Will these researchers be convicted for developing an under-age sex bot?

    Or does it not count because they were giving paedos sexual titillation "for research purposes"?

    I fucking hate child sex abuse. I'm one of those bleeding heart feminists. But this is NOT child sex abuse - and if the authorities spend one moment on it, they are deliberately redirecting resources away from catching criminals, i.e. choosing to take a path which will increase the number of abused children.

    • Very good question.
  • Turing test... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arkh89 (2870391) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:24PM (#45339023)

    ...21st century style!

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:33PM (#45339137)

    A computer-generated, ten year-old goldfish would get thousands of propositioning messages.

  • by tag (22464) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:35PM (#45339157)
    There's a Max Headroom joke in here somewhere, but I'm still too creeped out to make it.
  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:36PM (#45339165)

    Maybe some of them could tell by the pixels that it was computer generated.

  • by Spaham (634471) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:40PM (#45339201)

    Am I the only one to see immediatly that this is 3D Computer Graphics ??
    It's very realistic but still computer generated...

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smokingcCOFFEEube.be minus caffeine> on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:45PM (#45339249) Homepage

    The question is: is doing/seeing something in virtual reality actually a crime? I'm sure Christians would say "Yes, it's a sin" but legally you haven't 'hurt' anyone. As this stuff gets more realistic, how much of the criminals currently exploiting children will simply buy/rent a render farm and become a legitimate business? To put it very crudely: the render farms do not involve the cost and risk of kidnapping, transporting, exploiting and maintaining people (whether they be adult or not) and they can give the same experience without putting anyone either physically or legally at risk.

    At that point (if you're "into" that stuff), doing this becomes merely thought crime. I haven't done the research into whether this increases or reduces the risk of actually physical incidents (I hope it would reduce the drive for gratification in the illegal ways drastically) but it could be a boon for a host of people and move a lot of law enforcement activity to other exploitation of humans.

  • The Internet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @04:51PM (#45339353)

    where the men are men, the women are men, and the 10-year-old girls are FBI agent-bots.

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